Happyness - Write In (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
HAPPYNESS continue to deliver their own take on the US college rock scene with new LP Write In, albeit laced with a few more outside influences.
The result is an album full of lively, upbeat songs that chart the [wide] territory between everyone from Weezer and Dinosaur Jr stretching right back to acts like the Kinks or The Move!. The guitars are very much to the fore, too, which makes for some very engaging instrumental backdrops.
Write In marks the band’s follow-up to the well received Weird Little Birthday but, in their own words, marks a confident and ambitious move forward despite having been self-produced in the same space (their own affectionately named Jelly Boy Studios, above a now-abandoned bookshop) with the same gear and the same mixer.
“I think this record is saying, ‘there’s a massive world outside this little American alt-rock sphere we were looking in on,” says Jon EE. “Like The Kinks. Or The Move! I don’t think the anti-earnest thing we had is as present anymore. Part of what’s opened up is just being able to be tender or heartfelt without feeling guilty about it.”
Hence, there’s a more eclectic mix of sounds evident in this album too. Opening track Falling Down offers up a memorably laidback guitar segment that lasts for just over two minutes, before hitting you with a bittersweet lament that never quite manages to sound as melancholy as the lyrics suggest. Rather, it’s a beautiful alt-rock track that bands like Weezer would be proud of, complete with hazy, slacker-style vocals. But it suggests, right from the get-go, that fans of that scene are in for a treat.
They switch it up at various points, though, thereby managing to pull off that neat trick of staying loyal to their established [and perhaps expectant] fanbase, while also broadening their appeal.
The Reel Starts Againa (Man As Ostrich) places a bigger emphasis on a piano sound, as well as experimental electronics, conjuring comparisons with both Ben Folds (vocally and piano-wise), as well as The Beatles during the Sgt Pepper tinged chorus.
Anytime, meanwhile, offers up a heavenly slice of sun-drenched California alt-rock that Dinosaur Jr fans should lap up (complete with reverb heavy guitar), before Through Windows brings on the Lennon-esque pianos, albeit delivered with an Eels-like vocal. It’s a frequently intriguing mix of influences that also encapsulate the values that Happyness themselves have come to hold dear.
Further highlights come in the form of Uptrend/Style Raids, which operates from one of the best guitar hooks on the LP, the Jesus & Mary Chain-like Victor Lazarro’s Heart and the effortlessly toe-tapping Anna, Lisa Calls – another one for blasting out loud on a hot beach or seaside highway.
There’s more trippy psychedelia to be found on The C Is A B A G before Tunnel Vision On Your Part rounds things off with a ridiculously enjoyable slice of laidback slacker rock that’s tailor-made for unwinding too after a long day. It’s awash with beautiful melodies (both piano and guitar-based), as well as another hazy set of vocals.
All in all, Happyness have delivered another summery album that capably gives off the kind of feel-good vibe that their name suggests it should.
Download picks: Falling Down, Anytime, Uptrend/Style Raids, Victor Lazarro’s Heart, Anna, Lisa Calls, Tunnel Vision On Your Part